Sunday, 28 January 2018

Arrival and where to stay. 

You'll most likely fly into Podgorica most likely stay somewhere around Budva :) My tip would be to not stay directly in the city of Budva: there's not much to do and there're much more charming places to be - rent a car and you'll be free to explore the beauties of Montenegro, but will at the same time be able to have some peace and quiet if you find a cosy little village, close to the beach, without having to fight the hoards of tourists at the public beach or flocking under your windows at night.

Dangers and annoyances. 

People in Montenegro are in general extremely nice and welcoming, but do beware of the local drivers, the police and parking in areas that seem to be used only by the locals. Unfortunately, I actually had to waste the whole day because some idiot messed up my windscreen wipers and I had to register with the local police (who are NOT efficient by even the lowest standards) only for the rental car dude to ignore my police report once he saw that I ACTUALLY have it :-)

Drobni Pijesak, Petrovac & Sveti Stefan

  • Given we stayed in the tiny village of Rafailovići (a 30-minute drive to Budva), an easy excursion to a new beach was to go to Petrovac and to Drobni Pijesak
  • Visit Sveti Stefan - a wonderfully beautiful hotel island on the shores of the Adriatic Sea next to Budva

Budva (things to do in and around):

  • Roam around the Stary Grad (Old Town) of Budva, check out Crkva Ivana Krstitelja (St. Ivan Church), visit the harbour and the market.
  • Enjoy beautiful sunsets by the sea with a bottle of wine. 
  • If you're driving pretty much anywhere from Budva, you'll most likely have to pass by the biggest lake in Europe, Lake Skadar - a pretty scenic largest stop even if you're not planning to make a one-day trip of visiting it. 

Ostrog Monastery & Skadar Lake 

  • Ostrog Monastery - Ostrog monastery is also informally called "St.Basil's wonder" as no one knows how the hell you can build a monastery in a cave on a vertical cliff.

Bar (things to do): 

  • Watch the sunset at one of the beach bars in Bar (no pun intended) and eat seafood (squid and octopus I've tasted there are a reason to live per se!!!)

Lovćen National Park (things to do):

  • Drive the serpentine road to Lovćen National Park and c
    heck out the views of the Kotor Bay from the scenic Cetinje-to-Kotor road.

  • View the Bay of Kotor from away from the Njegoš Mausoleum
  • Descend the 462 steps of Njegoš Mausoleum, the final resting place of Petar II Petrović Njegoš, Montenegro's most beloved son.
  • Taste the original ham (Njeguški pršut) and cheese (Njeguški sir) in the village of  Njeguši

Bay of Kotor 

  • The Bay of Kotor can be found on a number of Most Beautiful Places To Visit Before You Die (and for a reason!). It's worth coming to Montenegro even if the Bay is the only thing you'll do there. One could rent a boat or a canoe, visit the artificially created Island of St.Mary 
  • The city of Kotor is worth spending the whole day in: walking the city walls and visiting the little shops... There's also an inside-the-mountain corridor leading to Njegoš Mausoleum up to Jezerski Vrh.

Risan & the Roman Mosaics 

  • Get some muscles from the muscles farm next to Ljuta
  • Have a look at the Roman mosaics in Risan
  • Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe (Island of Saint George) - an islet just off the coast of Perast in Bay of Kotor.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Wiener Melange (The Cultural & Culinary Delights of the Austrian capital)

Getting Around Vienna

You'll arrive at the International Vienna Airport in Schwechat, don't take the CAT (City Airport Train) train unless you are not counting your money and really need to get to the city center in 30 minutes. If you're staying in town for a couple of days, get yourself  a 24/48/72 hour tickets (e.g. 72 hours is 16.5 euros) + (to get to & from the airport) you'll need to purchase a supplement to get to 
& from the city border.

Walking tours 

FREE guided tours (all tours start on Helmut Zilk-Platz (on the square next to the tourist office) metro: „Karlsplatz“ - U1, U2, U4) 

Walk route suggestion: 

  • A nice combo would be to walk from Maria-Theresien-Platz to the Parliament  Rathaus Burgtheater – Uni Wien - Votivkirche. It's particularly amazing during wintertime, especially before Christmas, when "Weihnachtsmärkte (locally known as "Christkindlmärkte" (i.e. Christmas Markets). 
  • A charming evening walk could start at Stephansplatz, along Pestsäule am Graben (“Graben” is a street between Kohlmarkt & Stephansplatz/Kärtnerstrasse), looking at the cute Peterskirche and going in direction of Maria-Theresien-Platz, past Hofburg (Kaiserappartements & "Sissi" Museum + Silberkammer + Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) to MQ (MuseumsQuartier).

  • Museums Quartier – is a base for several museums (MuMoKLeopold Museum), cafes + a location for many parties + a cool place to hang out outside when the weather is nice. All the students, but also an older hip crowd hang out here. In winter they build igloos where one can get punsch, glühwein & other delicious alcoholic & non-alcoholic delicacies. After having visited MQ one could continue on to Karlskirche past Naschmarkt-a & Secession, through an underground passage with some mirror art. 
  • If it's Saturday, do have brunch at Naschmarkt (Neni, Deli, TeWa or The Breakfast Club).
  • Schloss Belvedere – a park & palace/museum complex, used to be a winter city residence of the Habsburg family. I prefer to visit it in summer, but it’s totally possible to visit it in winter as well, especially if you have a particular interest in royal palaces. It is not far away from the centre (close to Schwarzenbergerplatz – the monument to Soviet soldiers, who dies freeing Austria from the fascist invaders)
  • Schloss Schönbrunn – a former summer residence of the Habsburgs; same story as with Belvedere – best seen in winter, but open to royal-crazy visitors during the whole year ;-) It is situated @ green line U4 Schönbrunn (a bit further away from the center – however, if you’re anyway already at Karlsplatz or Naschmarkt – that would be your chance to go there; bear in mind – it’ll take you at least 3-4 hours to go there/ back + have a look around the palace & the gardens/zoo).


  • Albertina – another cultural ‘must’ (Albertina is situated right behind the Viennese Opera House – definitely worth having a look at the building + eventually even queuing for the cheap tickets on the day of the performance in case you didn’t make a reservation in advance ;-)
  • Gerstner K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäcker - if you're about to visit Albertina, consider grabbing a proper Wiener Frühstück (Vienna Breakfast). Yes, it'll be a pricier than at Naschmarket, but it's an experience.
  • KunstHaus Wien - exhibition place designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser; mainly used for photography shows. If you’re going there don’t  miss the nearby Huntertwasserhaus. 
  • Hundertwasserhaus (Kegelgasse 36-38, 1030 Wien) – another masterpiece by Hundertwasser + a museum about the artist (however, I’d recommend the museum only if you’re particularly interested in Hundertwasser as a person – after all he was an architect, so his work is best admired from the outside.
  • If you are already in that corner of Vienna it would be logical to also visit the nearby Prater –& admire the antique Wiener Riesenrad (seen “The Third Man”?) and check out the attraction part Würstel Prater. Metro: U1 Praterstern.


  • Kärtnerstrasse (a shopping street with lots of boutiques & mainstream shops; goes down to Stephansdom from the Wiener Staatsoper);
    • Stephansdom Stephansplatz – symbol of Vienna & a very impressive Gothic/Romanesque cathedral
  • Wiener Staatsoper - don't forget that you can get your 3 Euro standing tickets to see any performance at the Vienna Opera House (start queuing 2 hours before the performance) at the back of the Opera House. 
  • Kohlmarkt (expensive brand/ boutique shopping à la Tiffany’s, Channel, etc.)
  • Mariahilfestrasse (mainly chain stores, the main shopping street in Vienna; the street starts at MuseumsQuartier & goes up to Westbahnhof).


NIGHTLIFE in Vienna is centred around "Bermudadreieck" (U4 Schwedenplatz) & along Gürtel (follows U6). Have a look at if you're looking for some PARTY time.


  • Babenberger Passage (Burgring 3) – futuristic design, usually dance/house music. 
  • Albertina Passage (Opernring 4/1/12) – quite a “safe bet”: quality is usually live music, mostly (no guarantee, of course) relaxed atmosphere.
  • Pratersauna (Waldsteingartenstraße 135): alternative music scene, usually cool DJs are playing there, however, the place itself is not extremely “representative”. check out the program to see if maybe someone you know is performing there:
  • Jazzland (Franz Josefs-Kai 29) - – in case you like jazz J open from 19:00 live music from 21:00. 
  • Manolos  (Volksgartenstraße 1) – they specialize in cocktail specials & salsa dancing ;-) open from 18:00 – 02:00am.

My "insider tips" for cafés/restaurants:

  • Café Neko (Blumenstockgasse 5) – first & only cat café in Vienna – you enjoy your desert & mélange while adorable cats are simply walking around (& sometimes asking for snacks)
  • Palatschinkenpfandl (Grashofgasse 4) ideal for a hearty delicious Austrian meal (budget-friendly); the restaurant is known for their „Pfandl“ (pan), my all-time fave is „Wiener Pfandl“)
  • DEMEL (Kohlmarkt 14) – perfect for an astounding desert in Kaiser’s interiors (check out the 2nd floor & the glass door to the kitchen along the way). That’s the one I’ve mentioned to you over lunch.
  • "Planters" bar (Zelinkagasse 4) – some of the best cocktails in town in colonial –style interior – a perfect place to finish the evening; often have live music after 22:00.
  • Sofitel (Praterstraße 1, 1020 Wien) - have a drink with a view. They totally charmed me with a Liquid Apfelstrudel mocktail.
  • Kleines Cafe  (Franziskanerplatz 3) – wonderful for a cosy glass of wine of Glühwein; this is the café from the movie Before Sunrise (1995) with Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke - h – watch it before going to Vienna  - it’s a classic romantic movie, which however nicely showcases Viennese sights.
  • Le Bol (Neuer Markt 14) – a great French pâtisserie/café – a reservation might be required, so either try calling +43 5322 587 or drop by there 1 day before your ‘night out’ to make sure they have a nice window table ready for you (sometimes if one is lucky & it’s not peak time you can also get a table without reservation); it’s situated on a square close to Kärtnerstrasse, would make to go there if you have the Opera/Albertina/Stephansdom on your schedule.
  • Café Diglas (Wollzeile 10) – one of the typical „wiener kaffehäuser“ (Viennese coffeehouses), famous for its cakes.
  • Fischviertel am Naschmarkt (Naschmarkt 177-178 | 1060) – delicious seafood; small, but quite impressive.
  • Eissalon am Schwedenplatz (Franz-Josefs-Kai 17) - a place I used to grab an ice-cream, but you have also sit down and rest your legs from all the walking around in the city center. 
  • Trzesniewski - their slogan is "Die unaussprechlich guten Brötchen" (unpronounceably amazing sandwiches") 
  • Café Sacher (Philharmonikerstrasse 4) - home for the infamous decadent Sacher cake...


Austrian cuisine:

  • Steirereck (Am Heumarkt 2A, 1030 Wien, +43 1 7133168)
  • Restaurant Marchfelderhof (Bockfließerstraße 31, 2232 Deutsch-Wagram) - a bit outside of Vienna, but totally worth the trip if you have a car. 

International cuisine:

  • Strandcafe Wien (Florian-Berndl-Gasse 20, 1220 Wien) in the в 22nd district (@ Donau) – very casual, kind of like a beer bar – best ribs in town; ribs are served on huge meter-long wooden trays.
  • Santrapezo (Marxergasse 5, 1030 Wien) – great Georgian restaurant.

Movies to Watch before (or after) going to Vienna: 

  • Before Sunrise (1995) - A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.
  • The Living Daylights (1987) - James Bond is living on the edge to stop an evil arms dealer from starting another world war. Bond crosses all seven continents in order to stop the evil Whitaker and General Koskov.
  • The Third Man (1949) - Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.